Robot Aircraft To Ride Thermal Air Currents
Robot aircraft have a clever new way to conserve fuel - don't use any. Thermal air
currents have been providing lift to flyers since the dawn of time. Research currently
underway at Roke Manor Research in Hampshire, UK, indicates that this sort of sophisticated flight
can be programmed into autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Their plan is to test the idea
first by using it to offer guidance to pilots of gliders.
Here's how it works. An on-board camera takes video of the surrounding sky; software is used to
analyze the video, looking for gray, dome-shaped clouds that are formed by rapidly rising hot air.
The system is also able to integrate real-time weather forecasts and simulations.
When the system is automated, it should enable a UAV to pilot a course that transverses as many
thermal air currents as possible. The resulting fuel savings is not just a way to "green" robot
aircraft; it will enable longer flights by conserving a scarce resource.
The first place I read about this idea was Roger
Zelazny's admirable 1980 science/fantasy novel Changeling. In the story, small, robot
planes called 'tracer-birds' detect and ride air currents:
The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...
...they stirred, almost simultaneously, as if shaken by a sudden breeze. They began to flex their
Soon, one by one, they dropped from the heights, caught the air, rose, found their way, found
their patterns, resumed their journey...
(Read more about Roger Zelazny's tracer-birds)
These science-fictional robot planes were also solar-powered.
If the idea of autonomous robot planes making use of thermal air currents intrigues you, take a
look at another ongoing research effort - the Cloud
Swift Autonomous Soaring Project.
Via Robot aircraft will ride thermals to save fuel.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/21/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Adversarial Pattern Shirts Confound Object Detection Systems
Ah, to be a vague blur!
A Passing Drone Has Covid-19 Advice
'Gold dots against blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up.' Larry Niven, 1972.
Drones Used To Smuggle Contraband Into Prison
'And some mega chip inside so it never runs into anything and no cop ever sees it.' - Bruce Sterling, 1994.
DARPA's Subterranean Challenge
Let the machines explore the underground city!
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'
Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'
Would You Get 'Chipped'? Michigan May Ban Employers
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'
Tesla Autopilot: What Does An Autonomous Car See When It Looks At The Road?
'Jeremiah is a sports-model to begin with and that kind is awfully hot-tempered.'
DNA Controls Swarms Of Molecular Robots
'They exist in loose swarms...'
Tether Asteroids To Save Us All
'If anything can glue the asteroids back into the planet they once were, magnology will do it.'
Blaux Your Personal Commuter Cooling Unit
A cooling unit had to be strapped to every commuter's back, by law.
3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'...lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.'
R9X Hellfire Missile With Long Blades Kills Queda Leader
'He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him...'
Would You Swallow An Origami Robot?
'Swallow it in an emergency--it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside.'
Perhaps You Might Be Interested In Habitable Exoplanet Moon Real Estate
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Blurry Face Photos Made 60 Times Sharper
Perfect tool for blade runners.
SpaceX Will Build Floating Spaceports!
'...a single perfectly level platform, which rose so high above the water that it was not splashed by the waves.'
Fast Radio Bursts And Space Beacons For Interstellar Navigation
'Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation...'
Robot Garbage Trucks Visualized
'It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories